Plaintiffs in Minneapolis police staffing case file brief with Minnesota Supreme Court

A March court decision would allow the mayor to "unilaterally dismantle the MPD by firing every officer on the force," according to the brief.

An "abolish the police" sign hangs on a building in Minneapolis in May 2020 after the death of George Floyd. (Lorie Shaull/Flickr)

On behalf of eight north Minneapolis residents looking to overturn a ruling on the staffing of Minneapolis police officers, a legal group has filed a brief with the Minnesota Supreme Court.

The Upper Midwest Law Center (UMLC) filed the brief last Tuesday, almost two weeks after the Minnesota Supreme Court granted a case review for the eight residents. The high court is scheduled to hear the case on Thursday, June 9.

In July 2021, the Hennepin County District Court ordered the city of Minneapolis to fund and employ a police department of at least 731 officers. But in March of this year, the Minnesota Court of Appeals overturned the order, claiming the city charter does not legally require the city council or mayor to employ a minimum of police officers.

With the assistance of the UMLC, the eight residents of north Minneapolis — an area with persisting high levels of violent crime and limited police presence — have been seeking to get the district court order reinstated.

Their argument is that the Minnesota Court of Appeals is misreading the plain language of the city charter, as well as establishing the theoretical groundwork for the Minneapolis mayor to fire all officers on the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) if he or she chose to do so.

“The court of appeals subverted the will of the people of Minneapolis by converting the Charter’s minimum force requirement into a mere number on paper,” the brief reads. “The court of appeals’ decision created ‘discretion’ where there is none by holding that Mayor Frey — or any successor with a dimmer view of the MPD — can unilaterally dismantle the MPD by firing every officer on the force.”

“The court of appeals also failed to analyze whether the Council actually provided funding for 731 sworn officers given the serious depletion of the force and Mayor Frey’s testimony that he cannot hire more or hold more academies without more money,” the brief adds.

Thus, the eight residents are asking the Minnesota Supreme Court to recognize that the city charter requires the “funding and maintenance of a minimum number of Minneapolis police” and that the city cannot legally “under-fund or fail to maintain the MPD in violation of the force requirement.”

UMLC senior legal counsel James Dickey released a statement Wednesday on the filing of the brief.

“Minneapolis currently has fewer than 583 officers, which clearly violates the City Charter,” he said. “Our clients and their neighbors are the ones suffering because of it. We look forward to the Supreme Court upholding the Charter and requiring the City Council and Mayor to do their jobs and start protecting their residents.”